Volunteer gig at hospital leads ASU grad to the field of science of health care delivery

Saigayatri Darira received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years, as well as New American University Scholarship

April 19, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Graduating senior and Medallion Scholar Saigayatri Darira found her passion for health care in her hometown of Prescott, Arizona.  Saigayatri Darira Through her involvement in the Medallion Scholarship Program, one of the ASU Alumni Association’s signature scholarship initiatives, Saigayatri Darira said she has made friendships that will last a lifetime — and it all stemmed from a group chat about going to a football game her first semester at ASU. Download Full Image

“I was volunteering in the emergency room of one of the main hospitals in Prescott and realized I love the environment of health care, but I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor,” she said.

After coming to Arizona State University and learning more about how the U.S. health care system works, she discovered that she wanted to learn more about population health and work toward improving health disparities. When it came time to write her honors thesis, Darira naturally chose a topic related to her field of study, the science of health care delivery.

“My honors thesis is focused on interviewing health care leaders in Arizona and analyzing the answers I have received,” said Darira, who received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years and the New American University Scholarship. 

With the help of her thesis director, Dr. Bradley Doebbeling, she has strengthened her skills in health care research. Darira said she is grateful for the professors she worked with at ASU as they taught her valuable knowledge about health care and gave her guidance as she made decisions throughout her undergraduate career.

In addition to health care, one of Darira’s other passions is sustainability. By being a part of Changemaker Central and GreenLight Solutions at ASU, she has been able to connect with new people while helping solve problems that matter to her. 

“I feel like I am able to make an impact on my passion for sustainability through connecting with others and working on projects,” she said. 

Darira added that if she was able to solve one problem on the planet, she would tackle the issue of waste going into the ocean. 

“I would try to find innovative solutions with others to break down plastic without harming our planet,” she said. 

One of Darira’s favorite aspects of attending ASU has been the friendships she has made. Through her involvement in the Medallion Scholarship Program, one of the ASU Alumni Association’s signature scholarship initiatives, she said she has made friendships that will last a lifetime. 

Darira remembers wanting to attend a football game during her first year as a Sun Devil but not having anybody to go with. She reached out to her scholarship cohort via group chat, and someone quickly responded and invited her to join him and his friends. The friendships she made at that football game have been some of her strongest throughout college.

After graduation, Darira will be continuing her education at ASU by working toward her master's degree in the science of health care delivery.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association


‘Like salt on Fritos’: ASU grad thanks her advising wizard

April 19, 2021

No offense to her fellow classmates, but recent ASU grad Jessie Erbe didn’t like the sound of “Class of 2021.”

To her ear, graduating in an even-numbered year landed better. ASU College of Integrative Sciences and Arts academic success coordinator Melody Bernstein and counseling and applied psychological science graduate Jessie Erbe ASU academic success coordinator Melody Bernstein (left) and counseling and applied psychological science graduate Jessie Erbe (right) connected for a chat and high-five on Zoom earlier this semester. “I only met with Melody once in person, but I must’ve emailed her close to 500 times during my last year at ASU!” Erbe said. Download Full Image

“Besides, I’m the kind of person who likes to get things done and keep moving forward,” said Erbe.

She had transferred to ASU in August 2019 after earning an associate of arts degree in psychology at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Erbe then moved seamlessly into the Bachelor of Applied Science degree in counseling and applied psychological science, in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU's Polytechnic campus. 

A few days after finishing her first semester in the program, she set about plotting a course to accelerate her degree completion.

“Psychology professor Laura Jimenez Arista suggested I make an advising appointment with Melody Bernstein,” said Erbe. “So I went in with some classes in mind for spring 2020 as well as with my crazy idea to try to finish my remaining 50 credits in a year.

“Mel was on it like salt on Fritos,” Erbe said.

“When Jessie shared with me her ambitious goal, I was completely honest with her that it was going to be difficult,” said Bernstein, academic success coordinator in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “It would mean taking classes in the summer and getting permission to enroll in more credit hours than typically allowed in a single session as well as some prerequisite waivers from faculty.

“But Jessie was up for it, so we devised a game plan, juggling her remaining requirements with when certain classes would be offered throughout the year.”

From that day forward the two were, to quote Erbe, “On. A. Mission.”

“Jessie obviously needed a lot of ‘yeses’ from CISA staff and faculty to help get her schedule just right to meet her goal,” Bernstein noted. “And it helped that she’d already taken and done well in 10 psychology courses, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of hard work that Jessie put in during her time here at ASU.

“If she ran into an issue with a tough class, she didn’t just give up,” Bernstein continued. “Jessie would reach out to the instructor for help, and study more until she understood the concepts.”

Erbe completed the bachelor’s degree in December 2020 with a 4.0 GPA while working multiple jobs.

“Jessie was a dream student to advise! She showed determination reaching out to so many different staff and faculty members on her own. She advocated for herself but always had us here in advising if things didn’t go as planned,” Bernstein said. “Jessie is passionate, intelligent and thoughtful. I know she’ll be successful with whatever she puts her mind to.”

After reflecting on her accomplishment, Erbe put her mind to composing a note of gratitude to send to Bernstein’s supervisor, Jamie Eggerling. 

What’s up next for Erbe? 

“I’m quitting both jobs next month, packing a backpack and going on an expedition to visit family and friends. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t seen my family in five years!” said Erbe, whose hometown is Joliet, Illinois. “So I’ll visit Alabama, Illinois, Vermont, the Carolinas, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

“I still need to nourish and be present in so many friendships; it’s my responsibility as a friend to love them a bit more than a postcard and Ubereats surprises. Although I am present by being a phone call away, I need to meet their new babies, stand up in their weddings, comment on their new bathroom tile, and break bread with them.”

After that, Erbe’s been considering doing a year-and-a-half online program at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, in Tempe, to get her practitioner’s license in holistic nutrition.

“I believe food and gut health play such a huge role in psychology and would love to bridge that gap,” she said. “Or I may decide to come back and pursue a master’s at ASU. If so, you can guess who my first point of contact will be!”

Maureen Roen

Director, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts